During our recent trip, (Cargo #7 for 2013), after unloading half our coal load in St. Clair, Michigan we stopped at the Shell Fuel Dock in Corunna, Ontario to purchase fuel. Now, this is common for Thousand Footer’s in the ASC, (American Steamship Company), fleet after unloading at Detroit Edison in St. Clair, Michigan. But in this instance we were unloading the remaining half of the coal in another US Port, Essexville, MI.
A “process” must be followed for “Clearing” both US Customs and Canadian Customs when entering Canada and when “returning” from Canada. I’m going to tell you how the 2nd Mate handles “Doing Custom’s” for this type of trip. Remember, I told you the 2nd Mate is the “Paper-Mate”? I’ve done this numerous times and each time seems just a little bit “different”.
Clearing US Customs When Departing A US Port
After we loaded at the Superior Midwest Energy Terminal, (SMET), in Superior, Wisconsin we departed Duluth/Superior Harbor on May 5, 2013. We were carrying about 61,000 Net Tons of Western Coal. 28,866 tons of this coal was loaded in 3 of our 7 cargo holds. This coal was to be discharged at the Karn/Weadock, (Consumer’s Edison), Power Plant in Essexville, MI. The other 4 cargo holds we loaded were to be unloaded at the Detroit Edison Power Plant in St. Clair, MI.
Because of the available depth of water in the Saginaw Channel where the Karn/Weadock Power PLant is located, we would FIRST unload in St. Clair, MI where the water is much deeper. After unloading about half our coal cargo in St. Clair our intention was to cross the St. Clair River and take Bunkers, (load fuel), in Corunna, Ontario, Canada. Then we would proceed “up” the St. Clair River to Port Huron and head North on Lake Huron into the Saginaw Bay to Essexville, MI. We would be purchasing approximately 70,000 gallons of diesel fuel in Corunna.
The first thing I had to do right after leaving Superior, WI was to get “caught up” with ENOADs. “ENOAD” is a US Customs and Border Patrol, (CBP), website. It’s function is to keep the US Customs and Border Patrol informed of a ship’s travels between the United States and Foreign Ports. Of course Canada is a Foreign Port if you’re working on a USA flagged ship.
Getting “caught up” with ENOAD usually means making sure the correct crewmember information is in ENOAD as well as some other information involving the current “voyage”. This seems simple and sometimes it is. But if the ship hasn’t went foreign in awhile then oftentimes it is tedious. Once all the pertinent information is entered into ENOAD it is “submitted”. “Submitted” means that the information is uploaded to the ENOAD website. This is important to do as soon as possible because when you speak with a CBP(Customs and Border Patrol), officer they will often ask if you’re caught up with ENOAD.
And then there are the forms. There are several forms that must be sent to each agency both Canadian and US. These forms are all a little different and many of them ask the same questions. In my opinion, making mistakes or forgetting anything on any of the forms offers the agency you are sending the forms to a chance to make you “jump through hoops”. For every helpful, pleasant Officer in these agencies you talk to there is another that is equally unpleasant and unhelpful.
Like I said, the first thing I needed to do on this particular “foreign adventure” in which we were simply purchasing fuel, was to clear US Customs. So, after I completed the forms I FAXED them to the Port Huron Customs and Border Patrol. This is usually done after leaving the Duluth/Superior Harbor while we are still transiting across Lake Superior. Sometimes they will simply stamp the clearance and FAX it back to you…. This time I would have to use a “courier” because the CBP said they wanted the original forms, (for whatever reason).
As a side note; the fact that CBP “insisted” on having the original forms brought to them by courier in Port Huron caused the rest of the process to be slowed down because I would not have the STAMPED, (by the CBP) clearance until we arrived in St. Clair. Of course I NEED the stamped clearance to send with the rest of the stuff in order to clear Canadian Customs.
Our Company uses a particular “courier” in Port Huron when the need arises for that particular area. So he came down to the Ship while we were unloading in St. Clair, MI and took the package of paperwork up to Port Huron by the Bluewater Bridge where US Customs and Border Patrol for that area is located. Things went “relatively” well and he brought the stamped clearance back a while later to the ship. OK, so now we were “cleared” to leave the USA. This was just in the nick of time because in a couple of hours we would be going into Canada.
Clearing Canadian Customs
Next on my agenda was to make sure we could “clear” Canadian Customs. Generally this will be easier than clearing US Customs and this time was no exception. After FAXING the required paperwork to the Canadian Customs agency, along with the stamped US clearance, we were told that they would stamp our clearance and FAX it back to us once we reached the Shell Fuel Dock in Corunna, Ontario. Luckily, while I was doing THAT I remembered that the people at Shell in Corunna also want a “Pre-Arrival” form filled out and FAXED to them. So I did that and then called Shell to make sure everything was up to snuff. Now I felt confident that we were cleared to stop in Corunna to purchase fuel in the next couple of hours. So far, so good!
Clearing US Customs On Arrival “Back” Into The Good Ole US of A
So, Canadian Customs did as they said they would and after a couple more phone calls they FAXED us our Canadian clearance. NOW, it was time to get us BACK into the USA. To do this another ENOAD had to be formulated and submitted. I did this right away after clearing Canadian Customs.
Next I had to get together a total of 12 different pages of forms to FAX to the US Customs and Border Patrol in Saginaw, MI that take care of the Port of Essexville, MI where we were headed to unload the remaining cargo. I had a lot of these forms already done and after doing a couple more that needed to be sent I FAXED all 12 filled out forms to CBP in Saginaw.
Then I called the CBP in Saginaw and spoke with a very friendly and helpful CBP Officer. She told me the forms looked great and that she would meet the ship shortly after we arrived in Essexville. She could have just FAXED a stamped clearance to us but we had crewmembers who had not been with us the LAST time we stopped in Corunna, Ontario for fuel. Those crewmembers had to be cleared. She came down to clear those crewmembers while we were unloading in Essexville. She was extremely nice and helpful and the procedure was a pleasant surprise.
So, that’s a brief description of what the 2nd Mate does when a ship leaves the US for a Port in the neighboring Country of Canada.
Now, since leaving Essexville, MI, we are on our way back to the Midwest Energy Terminal in Superior, WI to load another load of coal. This time the entire load will be unloaded at the Detroit Edison Plant in St. Clair, MI. But, we are stopping again for fuel in Corunna, so the whole Customs adventure will begin for me again after we leave the Duluth/Superior Harbor. This time I will not be writing about it.
Now you’ll have to excuse me. I’m tired and I’m going to go eat dinner and take a nap!
Talk to you later!